What a fabulous day I’ve had…though it didn’t start so well. South West Trains decided to spoil the first day of the Current Archaeology conference for me by having emergency maintenance work between Bentley and Farnham just after I arrived at the station.
I’d crawled out of bed at 6am because I had to catch the 7:30 train and was on the platform in plenty of time to read the dreaded word ‘delayed’ on the indicator board. I then stood, at the end of the platform, for an hour, waiting.
Eventually the train turned up but, by the time it did, there was three trains worth of passengers waiting to board it. I’ve never seen the far end of the platform so crowded. It was a right bun fight. In fact, we hadn’t travelled two stations before the guard was announcing that for those standing in the front carriages, there were seats in the back (where I was). Horrendous. Still, I managed to get a seat and the trip was comfortable enough.
By the time I reached Waterloo, the first session had already started so, rather than interrupt it, I decided to go to the flat first and leave my stuff. This was a great idea, as things turned out, because I wasn’t forced to lug my stuff everywhere throughout the day.
So, I made my way to the flat, dumped my stuff then took the DLR back into town.
The conference is being held, this year, at Senate House of the University of London and a fine 1930’s building it is: All big and dominant and very close to the British Museum.
I can’t comment on session 1 but here’s my precis version of the rest of the first day.
Can I say, from the off, that a lot of archaeologists are not very good at public speaking. In session 2 there was a lot of ‘umming’ and ‘ahing’ and generally putting people to sleep. This is not from the content but rather the delivery. A shame because each of the three talks were excellent.
The one requiring special mention was Ronan Swan, an Irish guy from the National Roads Authority. Obviously a man who enjoys his work! He waxed lyrical about how the Irish so love archaeology that the roads are planned around sites rather than destroy them. An inspiration to all of us.
But the best was yet to come. Following lunch (I visited the British Museum) session 3 was all Roman. After an initial ‘boo’ from the audience (so predictable) we were sent into a torrent of wonderful facts and amazing excavations.
We had the wonderful Roman villa at Folkestone which is gradually disappearing over a cliff, the amazing Vindolanda which continues to surprise with every year of excavations and a revised theory about the inscribed altars at Maryport. All brilliant and very well presented. It was the highlight of the day.
Following a short break, we had the keynote speaker, the very experienced and popular Professor Martin Carver. He took us on a trip around the world, discussing the many different ways archaeology was excavated in different places and conditions.
We then moved into the reception room for the archaeology awards. There was beer, wine, some music from the court of Richard III…and then Dr Julian Richards read out this year’s winners.
As I predicted, the Richard III dig won Research Project of the Year to many, loud cheers. Mum will be pleased that Phil Harding (from Time Team) won Archaeologist of the Year.
And that was about it, for day one. Apart from trip across town to the flat at Canary Wharf.